May 2007 Archives

I can't profess to having known Dame Lois personally, nor too many of that generation of Bermuda's politicians on either side of the aisle to be honest, but of course we all knew Dame Lois by reputation.

The only real personal contact I had came on two occassions, both on election days - the first in 1998 and the second in 2003.

Both were memorable for different reasons.

In 1999 I lived in Devonshire North, the constituency that Dame Lois had represented since the beginning of time. My father and I went to vote where at the time the PLP candidates were Dame Lois and Paula Cox while the UBP had Charles Hollis and Gerry Ming.

As we walked up to the school to vote Dame Lois came out to greet us while Paula Cox didn't. Dame Lois, who my father knew reasonably well, shook our hands, greeted us by name, and then turned to her running mate and said "Come and shake Mr. Dunleavy's (that would be my father's) hand". That's what I think people liked about her, she knew everyone and had time and respect for everyone whether she figured she'd get their vote or not, whether they agreed with her on not.

The second instance was 5 years later at the polling station for Devonshire North West where I ran against Paula Cox. Dame Lois came to relieve Paula when she went to vote in her home constituency, and then was back (or stayed, I can't remember) for the count.

The count was interesting because while I knew it wouldn't be competitive Dame Lois was doing her best to run the show her way, until the Returning Officer had to rein her in in that gentle way...but rein her in a little was all that he could manage. If the constituency was in play it might have got a little contentious, but it was actually a pretty amusing way to wrap up a day where I'd gone through multiple shirts and absorbed more sun that one could imagine, on a hot July day (what was Jennifer Smith thinking picking the middle of summer for an election anyway?).

So other than Dame Lois's trips down memory lane in Parliament (which were painfully meandering yet oddly entertaining - usually punctuated by a lively rebuttal from one of my favourite politicians CV Woolridge), I really didn't have much interaction.

It goes without saying that Dame Lois lived a full and interesting life, one which I'm sure her political and legal adversaries recall fondly, despite or maybe because of their differences.

So while I'm not really one into political hero worship of either party through big public displays, holidays, state funerals and the inevitable renaming of something after Dame Lois, she certainly left an indelible mark on Bermuda and the accolades and trips down memory lane over the coming days are well deserved.

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On Friday, the answer to a Parliamentary question revealed that the final cost to renovate the Premier's Official Residence of Clifton was $1,700,000, where Premier Scott lived for up to 5 months (two of which were after he was no longer Premier) and Dr. Brown opted not to move into.

So, in case you're counting, that means that it cost Bermudians $11,333 PER DAY (based on the most generous 5 month timeframe) to house Premier Scott, and all because Mr. Scott wanted to show the Governor who's the boss when he didn't get his pick for Chief Justice, by claiming the former Chief Justice's residence, when the Laurels was available, renovated and secure for his predecessor at a cost of approximately $1,000,000.

$11,333 per day.

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An interesting day in Parliament today concluded early with a short but fiesty Motion to Adjourn. If there's one lesson to be learned from today's events it's to check your work.

The Premier went on the attack with a couple of truly ridiculous arguments, attacking the UBP for 'falsely accusing the Government of waste'.

The Premier delivered a Ministerial statement this morning and the PLP website has posted this extremeley misleading statement entitled "Setting the Record Straight". I'm not sure how the Premier's New Press Secretary Glenn Jones (a guy I developed a real fondness for during his time at the Gazette) is going to be able to look himself in the mirror if these are the press releases he's supposed to churn out in an effort to hoodwink his former colleagues in the media -- where his job was to inform the public not deceive them.

Just to set the scene, last week the Premier and other Ministers provided answers to some UBP Parliamentary questions on Ministerial travel.

The UBP then provided those to the press and drew some of their own conclusions, conclusions which were based on the information they were given by the Premier.

The problem? Well, Dr. Brown would like you to believe that the UBP misrepresented the facts, but all the UBP did was summarise the numbers which they were given, numbers the Premier now says were wrong. "An accounting error" at the Ministry of Finance put some items in the wrong category overstating the Premier's $4,000 a night hotel stay and his $19,000 worth of gifts. Nowhere in "Setting the Record Straight" does it say that the wrong information came courtesy of the Premier, which resulted in the 'misleading' information.

He really is incapable of admitting that he can make a mistake.

It would seem that Dr. Brown didn't bother to check the answers to the questions before they were released, and hence today he was desperately trying to regain face. Rather than just admit that the numbers were wrong, he blamed the UBP for false attacks. Juvenile.

But here's the kicker, and probably why the Premier was so riled up: this Premier has been living it up on us so long that no-one said "That can't be true, he wouldn't spend $4,000 a night for a hotel room". The whole island just shrugged, it seemed totally in character.

That was the funniest part.

The other entertainment came courtesy of the desperate complaint that the UBP are using their allotment of questions during Parliamentary Question time to ask probing and specific questions - as they are fully entitled to do. If they didn't they wouldn't be performing their duty as an Opposition.

Even the Speaker had to admonish (gently, but admonish he did), the Premier for accusing the UBP of abusing Parliamentary questions. The Premier tried 4 times to tell that lie, before eventually having to concede and refer to the practice as "the UBP's frequent use of the legitimate Parliamentary questions" so that he could make the next ridiculous statement.

(Credit is due to the UBP's John Barritt for sticking to the wicket and not allowing the Premier to lie about the practice of Oppositions asking questions of the Government. Message to the Premier: We don't live in a totalitarian state. This is a democracy.)

But it gets funnier, even funnier than Dr. Brown struggling to remain composed and contain his temper.

So determined is the Premier to try and shut down future questions and avoid accountability that he tried to argue that Parliamentary questions have become too onerous a burden on the civil service to research and answer (You know the civil service that has grown by almost 1,000 jobs under the PLP's 8 years.)

Now that's funny. We've got about 20 people spinning yarns daily at the Department of Communication, but we can't spare one or two to provide access to information.

I guess we can officially declare that Alex Scott's Public Access to Information legislation is officially D-E-A-D.

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The Royal Gazette
Opinion (25 May, 2007)

Twenty four hours is a long time in politics, or so the saying goes. A few months therefore are an eternity.

If there’s anything that we’ve learned in Bermuda over the past few years, months, and hours, it’s that the more things change the more they stay the same. As we head into election season, we find ourselves in a very interesting situation.

A few short months ago we were assured that the United Bermuda Party was dead in the water, courtesy of a couple of disgruntled members and a leader who struggled to find his footing. After a rather prolonged production, that group appears to have weathered the storm, selected a new leader and is moving forward by attempting to win hearts and minds one vote at a time.

The flip side of this coin is where things get much more interesting, once you scratch at the surface that is and look past the scripted press conferences, press releases and bravado.

The Progressive Labour Party under Dr. Brown is an invincible re-invigorated political juggernaut, not the bitterly divided party of the past decade which stared into the abyss only 7 months ago, and, seeing electoral defeat held their noses and cast their lot with the Prime Misleader – or that’s what we’re told.

But while the Brownies exude ultimate confidence through their calculated aura of invincibility, led by cocky declarations from Dr. Brown that his party will take 30 out of 36 seats and obliterate the UBP, the reality is that one of the Premier’s top generals had to be brute forced back into his incumbent seat in Southampton, the Premier’s Chief of Staff can’t find a home, nor can many other of his hand-selected loyalists; there is a confirmed full fledged quiet riot in the PLP between the new power elite and the branch workers.

It’s uncanny that exactly four years on from the post election internal coup of 2003, we’re right back where we started, with a stand-off between two entrenched camps within the PLP.

Not one to consider other perspectives, the omnipresent, omniscient Premier has described the castrating of his branch infrastructure as a ‘deepening of democracy’ rather than an obvious attempt to install his disciples, aka The Entourage; the friends, business associates and yes men who hover a foot or two behind the Premier with their adoring gazes, no-bid Government contracts and rubber stamps, determined to stay in the good graces of their Messiah so that they can swoop in at the last minute to displace those who aren’t feeling the love.

The official line of course is that anyone who doesn’t receive Dr. Brown’s blessing can’t win a seat; which puts the lie to the idea that the UBP are the walking dead and confirms that this election will be competitive.

The truth is that while the UBP had their problems, those were isolated to a couple of individuals who made a disproportionate amount of noise over their personal disappointment in a way that caused maximum disruption; the PLP on the other hand appear to be in the middle of yet another power struggle, or more accurately out, the continuation of an almost decade old one.

Four years on Bermuda finds itself with a governing party with the too familiar battle lines drawn. The only material changes appear to be that the showdown might occur before the election this time – not immediately after it (or maybe before and after) – and a role reversal of sorts, with Dr. Brown on the receiving end in 2007.

Payback’s a bitch; welcome to the PLP’s pre-election showdown: The Untouchables versus the Unelectables.

This could get very interesting, because it’s a battle for the heart and soul of the PLP, with Dr. Brown and his new brand of Forty Thieves attempting to purge any check on his power base by an independent party structure to clear the way for years and years of rampant excess, lack of oversight, over the top perks and backroom sweetheart deals.

In many ways the PLP’s internal choice parallels the inter-party choice which will be placed before the electorate in the next coming months. This feels familiar.

In 1998 the UBP received a well-earned kick in the pants from the electorate after 34 years at the helm; now it’s Dr. Brown and the PLP’s turn, after they’ve demonstrated an incredible proficiency in refining the very traits they decried for decades.

Evidently when we were told that the way things operated in the past were wrong we misunderstood; it’s clear now that the acts themselves weren’t wrong in the minds of the PLP elite, it was the perpetrators that were the problem.

The Bermuda Emissions scandal has demonstrated that yesterday’s corruption is today’s ‘entrepreneurship’; or that’s what Dr. Brown would have us believe.

In the few but tumultuous months since Dr. Brown seized the reigns of power, Bermuda has witnessed a tsunami of self-absorbed excess in the form of motorcades, entourages and luxurious overseas junkets; the obliterating of ethical boundaries with political donors, political wannabes, and friends and family receiving lucrative Government contracts (Kurron Shares of America, Bermuda Emissions etc.); well-functioning public services have been axed with little and changing justification; the emergence of clear conflicts of interest (how can we tolerate the owner of a private clinic closing a public one while only recently stating his aspirations to open a private hospital in Bermuda?); and a green light for big money and Dr. Brown’s foreign financiers to help themselves to Bermuda’s treasures.

If this is how Dr. Brown and his followers behave before an election, imagine what we’re in for if they think they’re free and clear for a five year reign.

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The story in Wednesday's Bermuda Sun entitled "Race: 'Polite' white people the problem?" is interesting and like most discussions of race in Bermuda ignores that these things are a two way street.

The thrust of the story is that whites are 'over-sensitive' and therefore holding back an honest discussion.

The flip side of this is of course that many whites are well-aware that in Bermuda, but particularly in the political arena, many blacks are themselves over-sensitive, interpreting any criticism by whites as racial. Or course, there's also the fact that the politicians behind the 'Big Conversation' are a group of individuals whose track record of sincerity on discussing race is, shall we say, poor.

More on that in a second.

Back in January I wrote about this a little bit after an interesting exchange between Dr. Eva Hodgson and the UBP's John Barritt on Shirley Dill's talk show:

Dr. Hodgson, as she usually does, gave a pretty good summation of the problems that the UBP - and whites generally - have in criticising the PLP. I probably won't say this as eloquently as Dr. Hodgson, but she pointed out that she 'feels sorry for white liberals like Mr. Barritt', because when whites are critical of blacks, what blacks hear is not the criticism but an 'echo' in their heads telling them that they're only being criticised because they are black.

Dr. Hodgson's comments really stuck with me because it's something that summed up very well a dynamic in Bermuda and Bermuda politics.

It's for that reason that I think it's important to point out that this 'white over-sensitivity' didn't just come out of nowhere. While there are certainly those who would prefer to avoid talking about race, there are also those who are fed up with having any comment twisted into a racial attack and therefore have simply withdrawn. Many whites (and blacks) have understandably stepped away from the public debate and have just decided to live their lives by the right principles as their way to address race. I must admit that I have a lot of sympathy for that position, and rarely talk about race myself, other than to counter the political hijacking of it.

Now, back to the credibility of "The Big Conversation". I think that it doesn't take much effort to point out that Dr. Brown and Rolfe Commissiong, the Premier's race 'consultant', are two racially manipulative individuals who love to twist and distort things that have no racial connection into examples of racism.

The Premier's examples are legendary and well publicised, but the most obvious were the 'racist dog' diatribe with its ridiculous effort to twist the common phrase 'Political Eunuch' into a racial slur, as well as the 'Don't vote yourself back on the Plantation' comment at the last election, the Plantation question defence from tough questions, and then just last week the silly attempt to mask his cronyism in some unspecified racial double standard.

Now, while I generally don't waste my time on the Premier's race consultant, I'll break my rule here and point out the most relevant (to me at least) example of his own shameful manipulation around race. A couple of years ago, before the taxpayers got to fund his exploits, Mr. Commissiong went on the news to label me and a number of others who'd spoken against Independence as part of a 'white cabal', of course neglecting to mention the many equally vocal black opponents (and the overwhelming island-wide opposition).

Do we really wonder why whites are 'over-sensitive' to engaging on this?

There's more, but I won't bother. He's not worth it.

I also wrote earlier in the year about the lack of faith I have in politicians to conduct any type of genuine conversation around race, and the motivations behind the timing right before an election to build this topic into a crescendo is patently obvious.

As someone who spends a lot of time being critical, I can personally attest to the many times my comments have been portrayed as racial in nature when nothing could be further from the truth. The protester(s), letters to the editors, and my inbox attest to that. My (now deceased) protester, even labeled me as racist for a column I wrote, which - among other things - called for an improved public education system to narrow income and wealth disparities between races.

So on that basis, while I don't question the sincerity of the individuals brought in to facilitate "The Big Conversation", I'll ask your forgiveness for taking the view that as this event is the pre-election brainchild of Dr. Brown and his consultant that "The Big Conversation" is almost certainly little more than "The Big Con".

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A friend and journalist makes a fair point on my rant about Bermuda's timid media:

thank God you're keeping on top of things...and pointing out the incredibly long list of lies, deceptions and other outrages!. I agree 100 per cent with everything you said about the timid newspapers, editorializing headlines etc..... except for this: "Bermuda's press corps is simply timid; there is simply no comparison between our press and that of other western democracies." From my experience, almost every small paper in every small community is timid, biased, shallow, full of unquestioned press releases etc. Bermuda's standards are far higher than most places of similar size. You're right, though, that our standards are terrible and ought to be 1000 per cent better!

Keep it up!

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A reader thinks he's found the Premier's $4,000 a night hotel room:

This must be it - Brown's Hotel in London - the Presidential suite costs a cool 1,700 pounds a night!

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A new Bermuda blog is out.

PLP Watch

It seems to be targeted at debunking the daily drivel.

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Another reader provides some historical context (sorry for the appalling headline pun):

Doc also overlooks the fact that Dunkley's bought competing dairies (such as Pioneer), while other new entrants (such as Bermuda Creamery) could not gain sufficient traction in the small local market to make it viable.

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Now I know nothing about milk, nor does it seem does Dr. Brown; he does know however that the facts are irrelevant when BS-ing something that has nothing to do with local monopolies into an excuse for his cronyism.

A reader writes in, reiterating the point raised by Michael Dunkley regarding The Prime Misleader's mis-characterisation of the Importation of Milk (Prohibition) Act:

When Papa Doc talks about Dunkley's Dairy having a competitive edge created by legislation introduced under UBP rule, he can only be referring to the legislation which prohibits people from importing fresh milk. The problem is, as he well knows, this legislation is designed to protect local dairy farmers, not local dairies. There is no restriction upon people opening up a dairy and, indeed, no anti-competitive practices emanating from Dunkley's Dairy to prevent new entrants into the market. Believe me, in many other markets around the world, the massive milk-supplying corporations would force retailers to sign punitive agreements to ensure that the retailers only stock milk from one supplier. If Bermuda did not have restrictions upon the impotation of fresh milk, the importation of huge quantities of milk from massive overseas suppliers would probably put local dairy farmers out of business within the year.

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Two lengthy press releases out from the UBP tonight.

The first, on the Premier's misdirection over his cronyism, and the second on the astounding amount of money and time spent overseas by he and his Ministers - a $4,000 a night hotel bill in London!

Bermuda Emissions Control money quote:

To suggest that granting this emissions contract was merely finishing up business started by the United Bermuda Party, nine years after the PLP has been in power, insults the intelligence of Bermudians.

As for the Premier's attack on my families business, I am not surprised. It is his style to attack individuals, to deflect attention and to push the race button when questioned about questionable deals. I will not be deterred by this approach.

The premier is under-informed about the dairy industry. He should be aware that 1997 legislation placing an embargo on imported milk – the Importation of Milk (Prohibition) Act – was done so to protect the local dairy farmer. The Bill was passed with the full support of both sides of the House of Assembly.

I was a new Member of Parliament at the time, having been elected a few months before, and declared my interest as the CEO of the production plant that buys milk from local dairy farmers to pasteurize and distribute. Dr. Brown was also a member of the House at the time so the question must be asked if he supported it then, why is he now trying to make political hay?

Travel money quote:

I say hair-raising, because the information given shows that Dr Brown, particularly, lives a life of luxurious travel that would put an Indian princeling at the height of the British Raj to shame. Imagine what kind of hotel room in London would cost nearly $4,000 a night, for example, or how comfortable a seat on an airplane would have to be to cost you $7,900 for an eight-hour flight, or what kind of gift you would give on a three-day trip to meet some college students that could cost Bermuda taxpayers $19,057!

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This, is an terribly irresponsible and prejudicial headline in Saturday's Royal Gazette:

"Premier turns the tables on Dunkley"

Whether the Premier managed to turn the tables on Michael Dunkley or not (and I'd argue he didn't for some obvious reasons), that headline has no place in a newspaper other than above an opinion column. That headline was incredibly irresponsible.

That kind of statement is something better suited for the editorial page, but certainly not a headline, and certainly not the lead story. In fact, if you read the story, the article itself gets it right, it's the headline that is the problem:

Dr. Ewart Brown attempted to turn the tables on the UBP by pointing to Mr. Dunkley’s control of Bermuda’s milk supply.

Attempted is the key word.

Then there's the appalling lack of follow-up on the obvious shortcomings of the Premier's desperate redirection from the un-tendered handing of a million dollar government contract to his cousin.

If the media continue to publicise the Premier's attacks while he avoids the requisite scrutiny that comes with it by declaring any legitimate question a Plantation Question, why should he ever respond to their questions.

The press should stop behaving like his public relations agency until he upholds his side of the bargain. But of course, the Royal Gazette is the UBP's newspaper. Right?

The ultimate irony of all this is of course that as I listened to Parliament on Friday on the Motion to Adjourn, when the Premier was trying to discredit the UBP's Grant Gibbons, he repeatedly referred to issues reported by "His (Grant Gibbons's) newspaper".

A headline like Saturday's is simply irreconcilable with the tired argument that the Royal Gazette is pro-UBP. I'm tired of saying it, but I'll say it again, contrast the Royal Gazette's aggressive coverage of the UBP's internal problems of a couple of disgruntled members (Jamahl Simmons and Gwyneth Rawlins) and the soft peddling of the current standoff between the Premier and his party's entire branch structure. There simply is no comparison.

Other than the Mid Ocean News, which has a history of aggressive reporting against either party (remember McDonald's in the late 90s and Independence under the UBP), Bermuda's press corps is simply timid; there is simply no comparison between our press and that of other western democracies.

The Royal Gazette and other media outlets have been bullied to such an extent that they tip-toe around the PLP, rather than fight back against the baseless attacks on their integrity.

How, for example, the mainstream press can ignore the Premier's conflict of interest in developing healthcare policy and closing a public clinic while he operates a private one, and his declaration of intent to open a private hospital in Bermuda, while developing the plan for the rebuilding of KEMH, is simply beyond me.

The conflicts of interest are astounding, and would simply not be tolerated in other countries.

Again, I've said it before and I'll say it again, you CANNOT have a public figure operating private interests while developing public policy in the same area.

And, if it isn't abundantly clear yet, the Health Minister is the public front for the Premier who is driving healthcare policy in Bermuda, and that is an appalling breach of public confidence.

Now, I know that as we enter election season this "UBP newspaper" meme is going to be trotted out repeatedly, but it fails the most simple tests of credibility...notwithstanding whatever historical biases the Royal Gazette might have had.

The fact is that if you look at the media machine that surrounds the PLP, courtesy of the taxpayers at Government Information Services, and also the Premier's personal Press Secretary, it's almost entirely staffed by former Royal Gazette reporters.

Evidently the bias isn't that much of concern when it comes to hiring away the Gazette's 'biased' reporting corp on a regular basis. And let's not forget that as the Government hires away as many Bermudian reporters as they can, that means that more reporters will be expats, which means that Government has a very strong measure of control over the local media and the independence of their coverage.

Now, onto the content of the Premier's misdirection on the Bermuda Emissions Control scandal:

The first problem is that there is simply no comparison between Government creating a monopoly through an un-tendered secretive process and a private company providing a product which any entrepreneur could (and does) compete with. And to state the obvious, the Marketplace recently began to offer milk sales - so the market is open - and from what I know of Dunkley's Dairy, they sell many non-milk beverages that compete with other distributors.

Secondly, the Premier states that Michael Dunkley's dairy business has "a competitive edge protected by UBP-inspired legislation". Shouldn't the Premier have been challenged to identify a) specifically what legislation that would be b) when was it passed; Dunkley's has been in business for around 100 years from what I can tell and the UBP is less than 40 years old.

And of course, as in any case when criticism hits close to home and can't be refuted on the facts, Dr. Plantation brings race into the mix:

"His former Opposition Leader was running the country’s finances when Ministers were permitted to hide their bounty under the guise of trusts. Perhaps these examples illustrate the racial double standard recent defectors of the UBP have warned us about. Well, I’m not fooled by this racial double standard and neither is the public."

Nice try. We've been down this road before when the Premier, during his racist dog tirade, accused Grant Gibbons of setting up a trust while Telecommunications Minister, and it was categorically denied by Dr. Gibbons. Dr. Brown not surprisingly never backed up his claims with specifics. But why should he in the face of such a timid press corps?

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I caught bits and pieces of the Motion to Adjourn last night, and while lively, the Premier - who always speaks last - never seemed to build any momentum in his comments, which were mostly on the topic of the Medical Clinic and race.

On the Medical Clinic, I'm not quite sure what point the Premier was trying to make, other than to attempt and discredit Louise Jackson and Grant Gibbons. His response however was mostly recycled misdirection and amounted to little more than Flop and Fizzle.

Likewise on race, with lots of self-congratulatory talk about initiating the "Big Conversation".

Earlier on the Motion to Adjourn, Louise Jackson and Pat Gordon Pamplin of the UBP had provided lively contributions on the Medical Clinic and race which were typically heckled loudly. By the time the Premier spoke it was late and hard to maintain the intensity after a number of other speakers had taken their feet.

The Gazette will have the summary on Monday I presume.

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Rumour has it that Dr. Brown is going to have another of his contrived tirades in Parliament on the Motion to Adjourn, presumably over the Kurron Shares scandal, the Bermuda Emissions scandal, and the scandal of the tourism donation to a US private school's golf tournament, as reported in today's Mid Ocean News.

I presume this was what he was telegraphing with the following line of his creepy birthday press release yesterday:

I will celebrate my birthday quietly and then on Friday move into another gear.

I'll listen in if I can.

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The personality cult around Dr. Brown is so out of control that we get a press release announcing his birthday - which like most days of the week was spent off island.

This cult is creeping me out. The Dr. Brown as Lord and Saviour video on the PLP's website should set off all sorts of warning bells. It's really, really creepy to have his admiring followers paraded in front of a camera to sing his praises.

Normal people don't do these things. This Messiah complex invokes memories of David Koresh and the Branch Davidians.

But back to the press release, it didn't stop there. The Premier decided the best was to celebrate his birthday was to accuse the UBP of spreading lies:

Premier and Party Leader Ewart Brown's physician at the Lahey Clinic in Burlington, Massachusetts has given the 61 year-old a clean bill of health after completing his annual physical yesterday (Wednesday, May 16).

Later today the leader returns home to Bermuda where he will celebrate his 61st birthday. A quiet dinner with his wife Wanda is planned.

As always, while away from Bermuda, the Premier has not lost sight of the issues continuously unfolding at home - not least of which is the constant drumbeat of negativity coming from members of the Opposition United Bermuda Party (UBP).

The Party Leader said from Massachusetts this morning, "I will celebrate my birthday quietly and then on Friday move into another gear. In my absence the UBP has stepped up their campaign of lies but they will regret taking this low road - a road which will never lead them or the Country forward."

So let's visit that 'drumbeat of negativity' and the 'campaign of lies'.

I would presume that the release is referring to the following:

- The untendered and secretive awarding of the emissions testing contract to the Premier's cousin.

- The secretive awarding of a hospital management contract to Kurron Shares of America - a company which donated to the controversial T.H.E. foundation and the CEO of which is said to be a friend of the Premier - the tendering details of which the Premier has refused to disclose.

- The documents produced by Louise Jackson which proved that the PLP sent students back into Cedarbridge when their hired expert condemned the mould levels as toxic.

So, anyone want to try and point out what's a lie? I'll agree that these actions create a climate of negativity, but that's attributable to Dr. Brown and his flock.

The facts of every allegation have not been disputed.

Come to think of it, let's call them the Brownies in honour of the Moonies.

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Dispatches from the front lines:

Rumour has is that the PLP have yanked sitting MP George Scott (of construction worker scandal fame) for the return of El James in Constituency 27 at the next election.

Why?

From what I hear polling showed the UBP's Wayne Scott beating George Scott, which wouldn't surprise me. Wayne has been canvassing very hard in that constituency for well over a year, while George Scott and the PLP have been AWOL.

It remains to be seen whether El James will be able to make up for the lost ground, but if things are competitive in a seat like 27, which is currently a PLP seat won reasonably handily in 2003, then as I've been saying for the past several months, this election will be very competitive, despite what the boastful Premier and his followers would have you believe; hard working UBP candidates have some real opportunities to take seats away from the PLP.

If constituencies like 27, and Michael Dunkley's new seat in Smiths (where I hear Dr. Brown wanted to replace Patrice Minors but might have to begrudginlgy go with again as others don't want to run against Michael) are in play, the next few months will be very interesting.

The PLP have the advantage, as they are the incumbent party and represent the new establishment; but the UBP have every reason to be upbeat and see some real opportunity through one to one campaigning.

Every vote counts.

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The UBP's Grant Gibbons gets it right, and the New Onion piggybacks on it to draw the appropriate parallels:

Dr. Gibbons in his oped:


There is a pattern here, and its sudden appearance in PLP politics coincides with the elevation of Ewart Brown to sole decision maker. Before Brown became premier-but while he was an active member of Cabinet and presumably had his wits about him-the PLP government proposed expanding entitlement programmes by introducing unemployment insurance. In fact, before Brown became premier, the PLP government worked hard to convince an increasingly sceptical public that it still had a “social agenda” after embarrassing policy failures in housing, health, education and crime.

One thing is clear: Butler, Burch and Burt are following the leader, and Bermudians should be prepared to hear more of this entitlement rhetoric as Premier Brown’s foot soldiers march in unison toward the looming election.

Out of context, these statements should fall on sympathetic ears. After all, solid middle-class values have shaped Bermudian culture. We celebrate the hard worker, the entrepreneur, the person who makes it against all odds. We applaud parents who make huge sacrifices for their children’s education and future. Bermudians aren’t tolerant of freeloaders, never have been, nor should we be.

....

Entitlement rhetoric also provides a perfect smokescreen for a new kind of entitlement and its real beneficiaries: cronies of PLP politicians who stand to gain handsomely from government contracts awarded without open tendering or public scrutiny; the premier’s highly paid entourage who do little but increase the isolation between the premier and the people and even his own political party; and PLP politicians who voted themselves the largest pay raise in Bermuda’s history.

The New Onion summarises:

I think I finally get it… after making some early conjecture in this post. The New PLP under Dr. Brown are big government Republicans – American style. They are going (as this letter to the editor pointed out) on the attack on social welfare programs while arguing that we need to shrink the size of government and make people responsible for themselves. At the same time they are going to increase government spending (and consequently the tax burden) like modern American Republican presidents while simultaneously pursuing “privatization” in the name of efficiency, which really involves giving government money to their friends to run profit-making businesses with no competition.

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When the Tourist Minister cancels an overseas trip you know something's up; spending extended periods of time in Bermuda isn't something he does willingly.

The last-minute cancellation is leading to speculation his presence is needed on the home front, either to sort out his party's rebellious rank and file, or to prepare for an election in July, or both.

July 17th is the date the Sun predicts, and seeing as they've been the paper of choice for well placed PLP leaks there could be something to it.

I must admit however to enjoying the humour behind the bravado of claiming that he'll take 30 out of 36 seats, while he can't get a branch to accept their incumbent Cabinet Minister, nor have the branch workers bless his anointed followers.

If this is what the hardcore party faithful think, imagine what your average voter will make of it all.

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I've been busy upgrading my computer over the past few days, and thus a little distracted, but while I get re-organised I thought I'd re-link to the invitation for the invitation to Dr. Brown's T.H.E. scandal, in light of the news that Emerald level donor Kurron Shares of America has been given a contract to run the hospital.

A little donation here, a Government contract there. Everyone wins right? Except the public that is.

Louise Jackson of the UBP has it right:

“I don’t think anyone is surprised that Kurron got this contract. It’s a well-known fact that this company is run by one of Dr. Brown’s close American friends,” said Mrs. Jackson. “I and my colleagues are most disappointed because the Government continues to manage the people’s business, or I should say the people’s money, in ways that prompt more questions than answers.”

And of course the public is not worthy enough to see the details of the bidding process.

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On Friday, I saw something that I'd never seen in Bermuda, nor would have ever expected to...and I saw it twice.

What was it?

A super shiny black Hummer H3 (and no, for the cynics, the Premier wasn't in it). Here's the wikipedia write-up which is more practical than the corporate site.

Absurd. I did a triple take.

A Hummer in Bermuda will probably gets 30 gallons to the mile on our roads, and this was clearly just a private vehicle with a commercial designation.

So some people won't be entitled to own a car, while others can bring in a ridiculous second car under the guise of a commercial vehicle.

Why on earth does TCD play along with this?

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Psst, it's not just the security fence that got approved in record time...it was also the Premier's planning approval for Winterhaven, his private hospital, er, I mean 'research facility', as reported by the Mid Ocean News, two months ago:

The Mid-Ocean News can reveal that, just days before announcing the shock closure, Dr. Brown submitted a proposal to the Planning Department to convert Winterhaven, an historic building on South Shore, from a residential property into a healthcare facility. Dr. Brown's company, Bermuda Healthcare, currently operates another clinic in Paget.

The plan was resubmitted in December after Planning officials expressed "concerns as to how the building will be perceived and ultimately how it will be compatible with the nature and character of the surrounding area".

It was subsequently approved by the Development Applications Board on December 20, just days after being resubmitted. Typically, applications take nearly four months to be processed by the DAB.

Got that.

15.3 weeks for you and me.

A few weeks for Dr. Brown, whether it's a private business venture (which has a direct conflict with the healthcare policy he is implementing) or a supposedly critically important security fence.

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The Bermuda Sun editorialises as usual in their reporting today, this time on UBP leader Michael Dunkley:

[Dr. Brown's] nemesis, politically speaking, is dairy owner Michael Dunkley, an affluent man, who has attempted to downplay his privileged background by calling himself 'the milkman'.

Actually, I'll go out on a limb here and hazard a guess that "The Milkman" is probably because his family run Bermuda's dairy and their name is on the side of every milk carton in Bermuda.

And then there's the catch phrase of "The Milkman delivers". It designed to be memorable, not down play a reporter's prejudices.

There's privilege, and then there's hard work. Sometimes it's not easy to distinguish between the two, and sometimes one is used as a political device to cancel out the other.

I wouldn't call losing your father as a teenager and having to step into the family business by showing up at the dairy at 3AM privileged. I'd call that understanding the value of hard work and supporting your family. Two extremely appealing traits.

Let's leave the caricatures to the cartoonists and the opining to the editorial pages.

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A new guy gets to wear the funny hat.

Sir John Vereker steps down to be replaced by career diplomat Sir Richard Gozney, currently the British High Commissioner in Nigeria.

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Over at Bermuda Network News, pollster Walton Brown has an article - or an advertorial depending on your view - on the polling activity of both parties (see the PLP's recent poll here, which I believe was conducted by Mr. Brown's Research Innovations under the name Bermuda Opinion Survey.

My favourite line is this:

Polling can cause controversy within a party when a candidate favored by a branch turns out to be weak or unelectable according to a poll. The party will then need to decide if it supports the branch recommendation and face possible electoral defeat or find a replacement and possibly upset branch members.

Did Dr. Brown or Walton Brown write that line? Anyway, enough of me being bitchy.

But, at the end of the article Walton Brown describes the two different processes for candidate selection between the PLP and UBP.

While I can't comment on the process he describes for the PLP, I can definitively state that he is incorrect on how it works in the UBP.

For the UBP there are a number of different steps:

(1) A prospective candidate submits a letter expressing interest to the party executive committee.

(2) The party creates a list of approved candidates.

(3) Any approved candidate can submit an interest in any constituency.

(4) The branch constituency meet and vote on their choice of representative.

(5) the decision of the branch is forwarded to the executive committee for ratification.

Steps 4 and 5 are wrong. That is not how it works. The party executive does not 'ratify' anything. While the PLP's process appears to be ultimately controlled by a small group of central party workers, the UBP's is not.

The final decision is made jointly by a committee of branch and central representatives, and the branch can always carry the day because they've got the most votes...and then there's always primaries.

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I was listening to Parliament Friday night and caught the tail end of the Motion to Adjourn, where perennial thorn in the Government's side, Louise Jackson, boxed in Education Minister Randy Horton and his colleagues pretty well with this one:


He said: “At no time has this Government allowed students or teachers to enter that school unless there was an indication from the analysts that the air quality was such that it would not be harmful to those in the school.”

Mrs. Jackson interrupted the Minister to read a damning line from a report from Microbiology Specialists Incorporated: “These bacterial levels exceed any acceptable levels for potable or recreational waters and are considered sewage level.”

Not one to go quietly, Mr. Horton responded as follows:

Minister Horton leapt from his seat to explain.

He said: “I can tell this honourable House I have seen that report. We’ve also recognised the lack of credibility in that person who provided that report. Yes, the Department of Education hired that person but in the end have found out it may have been a mistake to hire that particular person.”

Which resolves nothing at all. Louise's point remains, and appears to have been confirmed:

Despite the Minister's retort that 'in the end' the Department of Education 'found it may have been a mistake to hire that particular person', the reality is that at the time they were handed the report they thought it to be credible....yet they still sent the students and teachers in.

But of course, like all things, it's the UBP's fault. I hope he makes that case better than he made the previous one.

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An inauspicious start to Government's Tech Week, with the Government portal down since Saturday, displaying this message on a blank webpage:

The server has experienced an error on startup. This problem must be fixed before using the system.

I'm told that they've had to fly an expat in to fix it. Horror! An expat. I hope they've identified a trainable Bermudian in accordance with the latest term limits face-saving exercise.

CORRECTION: According to a representative from the Department of E-Commerce the repair will be handled by the local contractor who was overseas but returned yesterday.

Damn. It was much funnier the other way.

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I was polled last night by the PLP at about 8:30PM.

While I was expecting questions about this supposed raft of PLP candidates so that I can fully appreciate the "deepening of the democratic process" that Dr. Brown characterises his consolidation of power against his party's branches as, there were none.

What there were however, was an extensive set of questions about none other than Dr. Brown (oh, and as an aside, The PLP party) and all the great things mostly he has done.

There was also extensive testing of messages for the upcoming election, both the PLP's and what they anticipate the UBP's to be.

What is clear however is that the next election will be a Presidential one about Dr. Brown. He won't be running a campaign on his party's record (which is poor by his own admission) but on what he thinks are his achievements. Almost every question started with "Dr. Brown has done...". Me, me, me, me, me.

The other 35 people candidates will simply be extensions of Dr. Brown, which pretty much confirms that what we've got here is a massive and expanding Cult of Personality known as Doc Hollywood.

If there was any question about where the loyalties of the PLP's next candidates lie when Dr. Brown makes his picks, the answer is: not with the constituencies.

I'm going to follow up with some more points on some of the ins and outs of the specific questions (like the adoption of the UBP's "One Bermuda" slogan), but read the ego trip known as a PLP National Poll and weep:

…conducted by Bermuda Opinion Survey

How likely are you to vote in the next election?

Are things going in the right direction?

What is your top priority issue (pick one):

Economy
Transportation
Education
Crime
Tax reduction
Housing
Environment

Do you have a very favourable, somewhat favourable, unfavourable or very unfavourable perception of the following?

- Ewart Brown
- Michael Dunkley
- Paula Cox
- Pat Gordon-Pamplin
- PLP
- UBP

If an election was called today would you vote for?

- Dunkley and the UBP
- Brown and the PLP

Do you disapprove of the job that Dr. Brown’s is doing?

Do you approve/disapprove of the job Michael Dunkley is doing?

Rate Dr. Brown’s performance as Premier?

Should Ewart Brown be re-elected or is it time for someone new?

The following are arguments to return the PLP as Government and give Dr. Brown a mandate:

- Dr. Brown and the PLP has a plan to expand economic opportunities for Bermudians by developing business partnerships between Bermudian and American companies.

- Dr. Brown and PLP have instituted policies to combat crime, including bladed weapons, drugs, violent crime etc..

- Dr. Brown’s work in tourism has been excellent – he’s increased tourist arrivals and lowered air fares.

- The PLP has managed the economy well resulting in more jobs and a better quality of life for Bermudians.

- As a trained physician Dr. Brown is streamlining healthcare and making it more affordable and accessible for the average Bermudian.

- Dr. Brown is a man of excellence and will make government more open to Bermudians.

- Dr. Brown and the PLP will make buying a home more affordable through tax incentives for developers to build affordable housing.

- Under Dr. Brown transport has improved with fast ferries and air conditioned buses.

- Ewart Bermuda says we need One Bermuda where those who work hard and play by the rules can get ahead.

- Ewart Brown created a Ministry for Social Rehabilitation. Bermuda’s families need more support, men must take more responsibility for their families and the community as a whole must work together to support families.

UBP arguments

- Ewart Brown is a dictator who makes decisions by himself and doesn’t care about what we think.

- Ewart Brown is soft on crime.

- Ewart Brown is divisive and racially inciteful and polarizes the community.

- Ewart Brown can’t be trusted to turn Bermuda around.

- The PLP are taking care of themselves with perks and pay raises.

- The UBP will provide the following – free education, interest free loans for students, reductions in taxes for school uniforms, free school breakfasts etc..

- The PLP hasn’t done enough to address the housing crisis. The UBP will make housing a top priority.

- Ewart Brown is closing medical clinics without consulting with those affected by the closures and will make healthcare less

If an election were called today will you vote for Dunkley and UBP or Brown and the PLP?

Should height restrictions be relaxed to build high-rise structures? How high? 10, 20, 30 or over 30

If yes, which of the following towns would you approve of increasing building heights? St Georges, Hamilton or Dockyard?

What is your age bracket?

What is your highest level of education?

What is your current marital status?

What is your income bracket?

What is your type of work?

Are you a strong, moderate or weak supporter of the PLP, a strong moderate or weak supporter of the UBP or an independent or other parties.

What is your racial group?

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Well that was fast. The UBP just blasted out this press release, responding to the Education Reform Broadcast.

‘A total condemnation’

Statement by United Bermuda Party Leader
Michael Dunkley, JP, MP on the Hopkins Report

There are clearly recommendations in the Hopkins report which warrant serious study and which we will comment upon in the days ahead.

But let us be clear about one thing: this report is a total condemnation of the PLP Government’s management of public education.

It is our view that the PLP Government does not have the credibility, the ministerial skills or the collective will to carry out meaningful and effective reform of our education system, particularly on the scale proposed in tonight’s address.

The report brings to a head the question of confidence about the Government’s competence that all Bermudians must weigh in the days ahead.

There can be no further excuses and no further dodging of responsibility on this vital issue. There must be accountability.

We are particularly critical of the way the Premier positioned himself in last night’s broadcast as somehow separate and above the situation, as though he has played no part in it, despite the fact that he has been a senior member of the very governments that presided over the decline in public education.

To call for the “re-professionalization” of the ministry and teachers, as Dr. Hopkins does, does not go far enough. The Brown Government must take responsibility. We therefore call for the resignation of Mr. Horton, in order to establish the principal of accountability going forward.

Unless that step is taken, we believe educators and bureaucrats will be less receptive to the proposed reforms.

The Hopkins report is clear: PLP Governments have presided over a catastrophic decline in the quality of public school education. The problem has worsened over the years. They have known about it, they have watched it and they have not done anything about it but to throw up their hands and call in overseas experts.

Their stewardship of public education has been a top-to-bottom disaster, and they should be held accountable for it. One TV special – which they could not even broadcast at the advertised time – should not let Government off the hook.

The Hopkins report validates many of the recommendations already put forward by the United Bermuda Party and, in particular, by our former Shadow Education Minister Neville Darrell. It contains some helpful answers to the current situation, but we believe Bermuda needs a new team to turn this around. The United Bermuda Party is ready. We will deliver.

May 3, 2007

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I've posted the Public Education Review presentation which aired tonight on all TV and radio stations (some more seamlessly than others I understand) on YouTube so that people who missed it can watch.

I had to break it into 3 approximately 10 minute parts due to time limitations and YouTube, and unfortunately I didn't start recording until about 5 minutes in when Dr. Brown had finished with his introduction (not intentional I promise).

PART 1

PART 2

PART 3


I'll comment more later, but I can't say I was surprised. The assessment was predictably abysmal, but the 10 recommendations sound like a decent start, although I'm not sure in a first impression that they go far enough.

But it covers much of what I (in a number of Gazette Op-Eds), and others, mostly in the UBP have been saying for some time (read the UBP's Education papers presented by Grant Gibbons recently, here and here, as well as many of the Budget and Throne Speech replies as well as op-eds by the former Shadow Education Minister Neville Darrell), usually to be met with howls of derision and ridicule by the Government.

Decentralise, eliminate or drastically reduce and restructure the Ministry, retrain and improve standards.

Not rocket science really but it is helpful to have an independent assessment with some benchmarks to measure against going forward.

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Big changes in the Bahamas with the ousting of the Progressive Liberal Party after one term and the return of the Free National Movement who won 23 of the 41 seats in Parliament.

Lots of interesting potential parallels and precursors to Bermuda's upcoming election.

- Bahamas' racial breakdown of the electorate is about 88% Black, 12% White - the new Deputy Prime Minister, Symonette, is a white Bahamian (from one of old Bay Street families).

- The PLP attempted to play the race card but it seems to have been rejected

- Ethics, corruption and trust were major issues in the elction.

But Ingraham's party successfully raised ethical questions, including allegations that immigration officials fast-tracked a residency permit for pinup model and billionaire's widow Anna Nicole Smith, who lived in the Bahamas until her accidental drug overdose death in Florida in February.

Ingraham, who was prime minister from 1992 to 2002, portrayed the election as "a matter of trust." He also accused Christie's party of allowing foreign investors and foreign workers to profit at the expense of Bahamians.

and

The two rivals are lawyers and former partners in the same firm. Ingraham's FNM was associated with the predominantly white "Bay Street Boys" who ran the Bahamas prior to independence from Britain in 1973.

The party lost in a landslide when Christie's PLP, traditionally seen as the party of the black majority, swept to power in 2002. The FNM had its revenge on Wednesday by making Christie's government the only one-term government in the post-colonial Bahamas.

Ingraham's party appeared to have won over young first-time voters and the "float voters" with no strong party ties. Independent candidates took four seats in the last election but failed to win any this time.

The FNM had lodged charges of corruption against Christie's government and accused his party of offering cash and jobs for votes in Wednesday's balloting.

Hmm, all sounds so familiar.

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Perhaps a little surprisingly, but not entirely in light of the PLP's struggles to get candidates placed, Parliament looks set to resume tomorrow, and Michael Dunkley has announced the Shadow Cabinet:

Dunkley announces Shadow Cabinet line-up

United Bermuda Party Leader Michael Dunkley today announced the Shadow Cabinet for the new session of Parliament.

The Shadow Cabinet is:

• Party Leader Michael Dunkley – Public Safety
• Deputy Leader Patricia Gordon-Pamplin – Finance
• John Barritt – Legislative Reform & Justice
• Jon Brunson – Works & Engineering, Sports
• David Dodwell – Tourism
• Dr. Grant Gibbons – Education
• Louise Jackson – Health and Seniors
• Trevor Moniz – Labour and Immigration
• Suzann Roberts-Holshouser – Social Rehabilitation
• Senator E.T. (Bob) Richards – Telecommunications & Transportation
• Cole Simons – Environment
• Senator Gina Spence-Farmer – Community, Cultural Affairs and Race Relations
• Senator Kim Swan – Housing

In addition, to his Shadow responsibilities for Legislative Reform and Justice, Mr. Barritt remains Party Whip and House Leader.

Mr. Dunkley also announced that former Leader the Hon. Wayne L. Furbert has agreed to use his experience and skills to work with new candidates and to assist the party’s efforts to win the marginal constituencies.

“This is a particularly important undertaking and I appreciate Wayne’s commitment,” he said. “The election is near and all of us are focused on winning so that we can give this country a government that delivers.”

May 3, 2007

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Sometimes one statement reveals so much.

Dr. Brown's press release today endorsing polling for candidate selection and condemning "power brokers operating as a controlling clique are permitted to call the shots" leads to all sorts of interesting places, not to mention hypocritical ones.

Firstly and most obviously the hypocrisy: Dr. Brown heaps scorn on the branch structure as a "controlling clique", a committee which had reportedly 9 representatives from the constituency, in favour of the 5 member controlling clique of the candidate selection committee, who stand poised to overrule the branch.

One person's controlling clique is another's democratic committee I guess. Or is it just that one can be more easily controlled.

Here's a suggestion: Hold a Primary. Neither party is fond of them but they're a good mechanism for settling these things.

Meanwhile, the commitment to polling as a democratic method of measuring public support over the whims of a minority surely means that Dr. Brown will respect the polling which has consistently revealed for more than a decade that an overwhelming majority of 2/3rds of Bermudians are completely opposed to Independence? Right?

Or is that not quite what he was getting at?

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A reader writes:

My God, Doc has truly outdone himself in the field of bullshittery this morning. His press release, wherein he states that reform of the method of political candidates in long overdue, is simply laughable.

It's funny. He never had a problem with the selection process insofar as it related to his selection as a candidate. No, the first time that we here from him about the supposed need for reform is when one of his
cabal is soundly kicked to the curb by his own constituents. To make
matters worse, he maintains that candidates will not be selected by the constituency branches, they will be selected by a combination of the branches' expressed wishes and opinion polls. Supposedly, this will result in candidates being selected by a 'bottom up' method, rather than by party elite.

So, let's get this right: what he's really saying is that the branches will have no choice in the selection of candidates, and that candidates will be selected by the ominously communist-sounding Central Committee, and this isn't an example of the whole process being dictated by the party elite. Basically, Doc and his cronies will get the candidates they want, and who gives a damn about what the branches want.

Yep. The same approach is in play with the clinic, Southlands etc.. It's the way he operates. If he doesn't get his way he changes the ground rules.

This could make the UBP's problems look like a walk in the park.

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